Some people form mental pictures -- "brain movies" -- when we read.
I never watch television footage of heinous crimes. It’s too gruesome for me to bear. But I do read news reports obsessively, and the stories from America’s school shootings have imprinted indelible brain movies in my mind.
The events 11-year-old Miah Cerrillo described to CNN last week should be seared in our collective memory.
Miah was one of the fourth graders trapped in a classroom at Robb Elementary when a gunman rained gunfire on her peers and teachers, killing 21 of them. In order to survive, she placed her hands in the blood of her dead classmate, who was lying next to her. She smeared her friend’s blood on herself and played dead.
She managed to escape death at the hands of a teenager armed with an AR-15 rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition -- an 18-year-old too young to legally buy a beer, but able to purchase military-style assault weapons.
It hurts to think about what Miah must have experienced in those moments. Her class had been watching the Disney movie "Lilo and Stitch" before the nightmare began. Then, suddenly, she was watching her teachers and classmates murdered in front of her.
Spend a minute thinking about what this little girl endured just to survive. Think about the lifelong trauma she will carry inside her.
This kind of terror has unfolded in American schools over and over and over: More than 311,000 children in America have experienced gun violence in school since Columbine, according to a Washington Post database.
That’s more than the population of St. Louis.
Imagine how the worst moments of Miah’s young life were made even worse by feeling abandoned by those she thought would protect her.
She and a friend managed to get their slain teacher’s cellphone and dialed 911 -- exactly what we teach our children to do in an emergency.
“Please come ... we’re in trouble,” she told a dispatcher.
No one came.
Armed officers stood outside that door for more than 40 minutes while children were trapped inside with a madman wielding an AR-15.
A child called again, begging for help: “Please send the police.”
Miah started crying when she remembered hearing officers outside, saying to CNN she just didn’t understand why they didn’t come inside and rescue them.
I can hear the voice of a terrified child calling 911 again and again.
“Please send the police.”
We need to sit with that and hear those words in our children’s voices. What would we do to protect them?
The Uvalde Police Department and the Uvalde Independent School District police force are no longer cooperating with the Texas Department of Public Safety’s investigation into their delayed response during the massacre. The officers waited for around an hour outside the adjoining classrooms because a commander on the scene wrongly believed the suspect was "barricaded" and that no lives were at risk.
Police outside Robb Elementary even threatened to arrest parents trying to rush in to save their children. The Uvalde police department's version of events has changed several times.
But this wasn’t the first time we saw armed “good guys” waiting it out while children were murdered inside a school. The school resource officer in Parkland, Florida, stood outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School while 17 people were murdered inside by another teenager wielding an AR-15.
Do the chaos and terror of a mass shooting paralyze some "good guys" with guns? Does a survival instinct override the oath to serve and protect? Is it fear? Is it cowardice? Is it knowing that their weapon is no match for a semi-automatic rifle? And why do we expect teachers to be even braver and more heroic than these "good guys"?
The Texas Tribune reported that FBI analysis of 277 gun massacres between 2000 and 2018 found that “so-called 'good guys with guns' interrupted mass shootings 3.9% of the time.” By comparison, unarmed civilians interrupted them almost three times more often (11.9%).
Unarmed civilians like teachers, principals and children, who have all sacrificed themselves during school shootings to save other children.
As for the myth of the "good guy with a gun" stopping the bad guy?
Bury that for good.